"Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise" (Proverbs 20:1). Sin, though approved by society and allowed by civil law, is no less sin before God, the consequence of which is (spiritual) death (Romans 6:23).
Civil government in general is ordained of God (Romans 13:1-7). However, God does not authorize a particular kind of government (e.g., Roman Empire, democracy, etc.). God does not pre-authorize specific laws of any government either. The apostles found it necessary to disregard civil government on occasion when it required of them something unlawful in God's law (Acts 4:18-20; 5:28-29). However, they only disregarded civil law to the extent it required them to violate God's law. The apostles were still bound by the balance of man's law under which they lived.
When civil government allows, tolerates, legalizes, taxes or sponsors sin, to that extent faithful Christians must resort to the higher law of God over man's law. Governments sometimes legalize sin, but usually do not require participation in the same (e.g., abortion on demand [murder], prostitution, immodesty and even nudity, unscriptural remarriage, gambling, alcohol, etc.). Christians must persevere in righteousness in spite of legal permission or even compulsion to commit sin.
Liquor was outlawed in the U.S. and its territories between 1919 and 1933, though Rhode Island and Connecticut never ratified the 18th (prohibition) Amendment. In 1929 Utah became the 36th state to renounce prohibition, and later, the 21st Amendment rescinded the 18th Amendment. Several other nations also practiced prohibition in the early 20th Century, also later to repeal it. Prohibition proved itself unenforceable in view of the general public outcry in favor of the pleasurable consumption of alcoholic beverages. Though their efforts failed in the face of acute opposition, several nations tried to protect their citizens from the real and identifiable perils of alcohol consumption.
Prohibition failed in the sense that it did not amass enough popular base support to preserve and permit effective enforcement of that law. Our so-called Christian nation and silent majority, or in other words, religious and conservative citizenry in America must shoulder a heavy burden for both the repeal of prohibition and the increasing popularity of social drinking. American religion has provided little resistance and in some cases considerable encouragement regarding alcoholic consumption in our nation.
Christian churches are partly responsible for the alcohol epidemic raging in America today, because since the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, most of them have abandoned their stand for total abstinence, encouraging instead moderation in drinking. Moderation has led millions to become immoderate drinkers. (Samuele Bacchiocchi, Wine in the Bible: A Biblical Study on the Use of Alcoholic Beverages, http://www2.andrews.edu/~samuele/books/wine_in_the_bible/ [21 Sep 1998])
In view of the billions of dollars of annual losses and human suffering justifiably attributable to beverage alcohol, repealing prohibition can hardly be dubbed an honorable course for this or any other nation.
Alcoholic beverages are legal today and big business for manufacturers, retailers and government. Largely, except for some dry counties and age restrictions, alcohol is legal throughout our nation. Tax receipts are sizable for liquor's 20 billion dollars in annual sales. New York once even legalized drunkenness and required police to act as free taxi services for drunks; this shows the extent to which government has reversed itself from an opponent to a proponent of alcoholic beverages.
Alcohol is the most frequently abused drug in our nation. Alcohol abuse costs 100 billion dollars annually; it costs about five times more to address the abuse of alcohol than the money generated by retail sales of alcoholic beverages. "Alcoholic beverages have become America's number one public health problem, costing over $117 billion a year and claiming at least 100,000 lives per year, 25 times as many as all illegal drugs combined." (Ibid.) Business, industry and government spend large amounts of money annually combating the abuse of alcohol in the work place.
Alcohol is associated with most crime; it is involved in 70% of all murders, 41% of assaults, 50% of rapes, 60% of sex crimes against children, 56% of fights and assaults in homes, 37% of suicides and 55% of all arrests.
Further, alcohol is a safety hazard; it is involved in 66% of fatal accidents, 53% of fire deaths, 36% of pedestrian accidents, 22% of home accidents, 45% of drownings, 50% of skiing accidents, more admissions to mental hospitals than any other cause, 50% of all traffic accidents (killing 25,000 and seriously injuring 1,000,000 annually), and is the #1 killer of people 25 and under (the #3 killer in America for all ages). (Garland Elkins and Robert R. Taylor, Jr., Social Drinking: Unjustified, Unsocial, Unwise, Unscriptural, Memphis, Getwell Church of Christ, pp. 2, 34.)
Alcohol is also a medical hazard. It is poisonous; half of 1% alcohol in the blood usually results in death. In addition, each alcoholic drink kills brain cells (which the body does not replace) and causes memory loss, beginning with the last things learned or memorized.
Medical research has indicated that "social" drinkers along with heavy drinkers incur some loss of brain cells every time they drink, and that these cells are irreplaceable. The only difference between the losses of "social" drinkers and heavy drinkers are those of degree. (W.D. Jeffcoat, The Bible and "Social" Drinking, c. 1987, p. 101.)
Alcohol damages the stomach, liver and kidneys, too. Only cancer and heart disease claim more lives than alcohol each year. Alcohol is a depressant drug that affects the central nervous system. Furthermore, one drink (of beer, liquor or wine) produces an average of .05% alcohol in the blood and accompanying physical impairments. Alcohol combined with medication or other drugs can kill; and, alcohol consumption during pregnancy may result in birth defects (including facial abnormalities, heart defects, abnormal limb development and less than average intelligence). Even in small quantities, alcohol deadens mental activity and slows muscular response and coordination. It further produces fatigue and lowers physical endurance.
Considering the obvious and real dangers presented by the consumption of alcohol, its popularity remains truly puzzling. Alcohol costs much more money than it generates for manufacturers, retailers or government. It contributes greatly to crime and greatly endangers both body and mind. These observations alone should lead thoughtful people to utterly reject alcoholic beverages. However, instead, the pleasurable consumption of alcohol seems permanently seated in culture and society.
Alcoholic beverages are widely used, as any observant person can easily verify. About 71% of Americans 18 and up use alcohol; only 29% abstain from its use. Most restaurants serve alcohol (including family restaurant chains like Pizza Hut, Ground Round and Chi-Chi's). Where permitted, almost all grocery stores sell alcohol. Serving alcoholic beverages to guests upon entrance into one's home has become the norm for modern hospitality. Alcohol also accompanies most social and sporting events; our leaders and heroes (e.g., politicians, entertainers, athletes and most other public figures) are viewed regularly using alcoholic beverages as well.
Even some religious leaders, among whom is Billy Graham, condone its use. Also, denominational church festivals frequently offer alcoholic beverages; military chaplains commonly fellowship over cocktails. The Roman Catholic church even uses alcohol in its worship service.
Far from being hailed as sinful, in our society, alcoholism is said to be a disease. If so, it is the only disease that is taxed by governments. It is the only disease that typically leads to auto accidents, divorce, murder and rape. It is the only disease for which one can be fined for having too much of it. It is the only disease gladly accepted by its victim. It is the only disease that employs people for its manufacture. It is the only disease regulated by government; and, it is the only disease allowed or disallowed in a community by popular vote. Alcohol[ism] is the only disease bottled and sold!
From mad dogs, wild beasts, snakes and even spiders people rapidly withdraw themselves. How strange it is when our society then deploys alcohol in every aspect of life, though it has amply demonstrated itself more deadly than marauding hordes of vicious dogs and ferocious beasts. Man has sufficient evidence available by which to determine alcohol will only harm him. However, God has also warned mankind against its use.
Drunkenness has always been sinful. No law of man can override God's law on any topic, including alcohol. Various national, state and local governments have found cause against alcohol to legislate against it. Alcohol is a dangerous drug. Alcohol costs more than it earns in tax dollars. Alcohol is frequently associated with crime. Alcohol is a safety hazard. Alcohol is poisonous and otherwise harmful to one's health.
. . . the reason alcoholic beverages are harmful to the human body, even in small amounts, is because ethyl alcohol is poisonous . . . In fact, the term commonly applied to the abnormal conditions produced by alcohol, "intoxication," is derived from the Latin term toxicum, meaning "poison." (Ibid., p. 103.)
However, the use of alcohol is deeply ingrained into nearly every aspect of society. Alcohol is the most unlikely and peculiar disease. As if man did not know it was bad for him, God denounces the consumption of alcohol as sinful. No plausible defense can be made for alcoholic beverages. Christians must not consume any alcoholic beverages. Christians and the church must oppose this evil to whatever extent possible (James 4:7). "And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them" (Ephesians 5:11).